Renaissance Sonnets

Facsimile of a 16th century English manuscript

Student editions of works from earlier periods have many helpful features: introductions, glosses, and footnotes provide interpretive assistance and contextual information. They do not, however, give the student any idea of how such literature was originally produced and experienced. Modern anthologies understandably aim to fit the most text into the least space, creating a sense of cramp and hurry that mirrors the life experience of the modern-day student. What a revelation it is to encounter the Elizabethan sonnet, for example, in facsimiles of the original editions! Here we see the first edition of Edmund Spenser’s sonnet sequence, Amoretti (1595). Each sonnet nestles at the heart of a full, clean page. Each is set off by lines of florid type ornament. Each is a miniature work of art set in a jeweled case. The reader of the 1595 edition cannot rush and skim, highlighter in hand; she is invited to stop and savor each syllable of Spenser’s elaborate verbal art, taking the measure of each poem before continuing with the sequence.

Timothy Raylor
Associate Professor of English

Amoretti and Epithalamion

Spenser, Edmund (1552?-1599). Amoretti and Epithalamion, 1595. Menston, England: Scolar Press, 1973
Facsimile reprint. Originally published: London: Printed for William Ponsonby, 1595

Main General PR2360 .A5 1973